Monday, March 02, 2009

Junot Díaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Lesley McDowell reviews Junot Díaz' The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

With this startling, breathless, sweetly harsh debut novel, Junot Díaz, a justifiable Pulitzer Prize winner, has managed to portray both the particularity of the inner life of a Dominican teenage boy in contemporary New Jersey, as well as draw universal conclusions about men and women, race and class.

We first meet Oscar when he is a plump little boy, loved by the girls to such an extent that they fight over him. Fast forward to his adolescence, and girls are fighting to get away from him. Oscar's isolation is compounded by his innate geekiness, his love of genre fiction, his dragon of a mother and his counter-culture sister. His mother might fit the stereotype of the fierce Latin-American mother who brings up her kids alone and works her fingers to the bone in underpaid, menial jobs to do it, but everything else about Oscar's story eschews easy assumptions.
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